If you frequently run out of money every month it might be time to think about learning to budget. Fiscal responsibility may sound dull but failure to manage your finances can seriously affect your ability to get a loan or credit card should you ever need one in the future.

The first step towards managing your money is to learn where it all goes. Take the time to write down all your outgoings, and not just the obvious things like all your bills. Start carrying a small pocket notebook with you wherever you go, and make a note of everything you spend, from bus fare to coffee breaks to the morning papers, it all adds up to a surprising amount. And it’s not just outgoings you need to record, keep track of all your incomings as well, no matter where it comes from.

If you’re a fan of spreadsheets, put together a simple budget spreadsheet to help you keep track of all your comings and goings. A spreadsheet is a really simple way of balancing your accounts, leaving you with a solid idea of how much you’ve spent, what’s left in your account, and what you’ve spent it all on. It will help you see where you overspend on things, like coffee or lunch, which you could make at home for far cheaper.

Food is another big spend for most households, either through supermarket shopping or because you tend to eat out a lot. Restaurant lovers should check out Groupon.ie and TopTable.co.uk to find discounts on eating out in local restaurants. To help reduce your household food bill, try making a meal plan for the week and shop accordingly. Plan to use the leftovers towards another meal the next day to reduce food waste and costs, and avoid pre-packaged meals with their exorbitant price tags. Stick to your shopping list and avoid browsing, you should see a reduction in spending quite quickly, especially if you shop later in the day, allowing you to pick up the reduced priced items that you can freeze or use immediately.

If you have credit cards, consider how you use them. If you have a wallet bursting with them, now’s a good time to cut down. Cut up all but two; keep one for regular use and the second for emergencies only. Try to pay off any credit card debt as a priority, and use any spare income you may have towards paying off any debt you may have quicker. Reducing your debt as quickly as possible will also reduce the fees and interest payments you’ll need to pay, opening up more money for other things later down the line.

Finally, don’t forget to give yourself a treat; there’s no fun and no incentive to save money if you’re not going to get a reward out of it. Set yourself a long-term goal, such as a holiday, and work putting a little aside towards it each month into your budget. If a holiday is outside your means allow yourself small treats such as a monthly trip to the cinema or a new pair of shoes as a bonus for managing your spending, but make sure to account for them first!

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